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PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – A class of 94 Afghan National Army Soldiers from the 203rd Thunder Corps graduated from a week-long NATO weapons training course, Jan. 7, at Forward Operating Base Thunder.
The NATO weapons course, which focused on familiarization with the M-16 rifle, allows the ANA Soldiers to train with newer weapons than the Russian-made weapons they used previously. It also is a vital tool in strengthening the relationship between U.S. forces and the ANA.
“The Russian weapons have been in their inventory for a long time. We’re issuing newer weapons. If we’re going to be partners with them, we’re issuing them a weapon that we are completely proficient on and have a stockpile of parts,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack W. Parker, Jr. of Arlington, Va., the Combined Joint Task Force G-3 training officer for Forward Operating Base Lightning. ”It’s good for the partnership to be able to operate on the same weapon platform.”
Mohammad Thaeir, a senior non-commissioned officer with the ANA who took the NATO weapons course, echoed Parker’s sentiments. Thaeir, who is from Takhar province and has served in the ANA for five years, said he is excited to use modern weapons that are more accurate and efficient than the weapons they used in the past.
The first thing the ANA Soldiers learned in the course was how to assemble and disassemble the M-16. They then learned the names and functions of each part of the weapon, said Parker. They next drilled on the fundamentals of marksmanship, including sight-picture alignment, breath control and the trigger squeeze. The ANA soldiers then zeroed their weapons and qualified on paper targets.
“It’s an old-fashioned system, but it works. Those basic fundamentals of rifle marksmanship have withstood the test of time, probably for 40, 50, 60 years. They just don’t change,” said Parker.
Parker also said that it is ANA soldiers and not U.S. personnel that perform the majority of the hands-on training. He added that this was not the case when the program started in September 2008, but the ANA trainers now take the lead with U.S. personnel filling a more supervisory role.
“They have their own trainers. They speak their language. They know how to tell them in their language how to lock the bolt to the rear, how to clear the weapon and how to make a sight picture,” said Parker. “It’s much better when you have a man who can speak your language training you how to do it. I can’t speak highly enough of how they’re doing it.”
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